Is the Muslim account of Muhammad valid? To discuss this issue with us today, Frontpage Magazine has assembled a distinguished panel. Our guests today are:
Edip Yuksel, a Kurdish-Turkish-American author and progressive activist who spent four years in Turkish prisons in the 1980's for his political writings and activities promoting an Islamic revolution in Turkey. He experienced a paradigm change in 1986 transforming him from a Sunni Muslim leader to a reformed Muslim or rational monotheist. He is the founder of 19.org and the Islamic Reform organization. His personal site is yuksel.org . His recent major work, Quran: a Reformist Translation, has been recently published by BrainbowPress, after being cancelled by Palgrave-Macmillan, which followed the fatwa of a "very established scholar."
Robert Spencer, a scholar of Islamic history, theology, and law and the director of Jihad Watch. He is the author of seven books, eight monographs, and hundreds of articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism, including the New York Times Bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is Religion of Peace?
Thomas Haidon, a Muslim commentator on human rights, counter-terrorism and Islamic affairs. He is active in the Qur'anist movement and works with a number of Islamic reform organisations as an advisor. He has provided guidance to several governments on counter-terrorism issues and his works have been published in legal periodicals, and other media. Mr. Haidon has also provided advice to and worked for United Nations agencies in Sudan and Indonesia.
FP: Edip Yuksel, Thomas Haidon, Robert Spencer and Bill Warner, welcome to Frontpage Symposium.
Edip Yuksel, let me begin with you.
I think a good way to begin this discussion is to talk about Muhammad in the context of women's rights. What, for instance, are your thoughts on our video about the violent oppression of women in Islam? Some critics would argue that this reality is the outgrowth of the foundation that Muhammad laid down in terms of his own teachings and also his own actions in terms of women. Do you agree?
Yuksel: No I do not agree. The video portrays a sickening reality, but if Muhammad came back today, these same people would declare him an apostate and heretic and would perhaps stone him to death.
FP: But just a second, some would argue that the misogynist pathologies in the Islamic world (i.e. female genital mutilation, forced marriages, child marriage, forced segregation, forced veiling, honor killings etc.) are engendered by the second-class status accorded to women in Islam and the demonization of female sexuality that is rooted in Islamic theology.
Are the teachings and actions of Mohammed himself in regards to female equality, rape and sexual slavery, not a part of this issue? Is his life, what he taught, and how he led by example really irrelevant to Muslims who seek to follow their religion in terms of how women are treated?
Mr. Yuksel, what do you make of the track of evidence in terms of Mohammed as demonstrated by Bill Warner? Can you explain how and why it is irrelevant when it comes to Islamic gender apartheid? Please also take a look at how Robert Spencer has documented Mohammed's life in his new book -- and this book is based on Islamic sources.
Are Spencer's and Warner's findings about the Muslims' prophet really irrelevant, especially when they are all based on Islamic sources and agreed to -- and pointed too -- by Muslim clerics and scholars themselves?
Yuksel: None, yes none of these innovations can be found in the Quran, the only book delivered by Muhammad; they were imported from other cultures and sanctified or they were innovated centuries after the revelation of the Quran. Not only they do not exist in the Quran, they contradict it. Hadith (hearsay narrations falsely attributed to Muhammad and his companions) and their collections have been the prime tool in distorting the progressive message of Islam. The reactionary forces, misogynistic ideas and practices, racism, tribalism, superstitions, despotism, and many other vices of the "days of ignorance" were resurrected and sneaked back into the minds and lives of Muslim communities after they were rejected by the early Muslims at great cost.
Soon after Muhammad's death, thousands of hadiths (words attributed to Muhammad) were fabricated and two centuries later collected, and centuries later compiled and written in the so-called "authentic" hadith books:
* to support the teaching of a particular sect against another (such as, what nullifies ablution; which sea food is prohibited);
* to flatter or justify the authority and practice of a particular king against dissidents (such as, Mahdy and Dajjal);
* to promote the interest of a particular tribe or family (such as, favoring the Quraysh tribe or Muhammad's family);
* to justify sexual abuse and misogyny (such as, Aisha's age; barring women from leading Sala prayers);
* to justify violence, oppression and tyranny (such as, torturing members of Urayna and Uqayla tribes; massacring the Jewish population in Medina; assassinating a female poet for her critical poems);
* to exhort more rituals and righteousness (such as, nawafil prayers);
* to validate superstitions (such as, magic; worshiping the black stone near the Kaba);
* to prohibit certain things and actions (such as, prohibiting drawing animal and human figures; playing musical instruments; chess);
* to import Jewish and Christian beliefs and practices (such as, death by stoning; circumcision; head scarf; hermitism; rosary);
* to resurrect pre-Islamic beliefs and practices common among Meccans (such as, intercession; slavery; tribalism; misogyny);
* to please crowds with stories (such as the story of Miraj (ascension to heaven) and bargaining for prayers);
* to idolize Muhammad and claim his superiority to other messengers (such as, numerous miracles, including splitting the moon);
* to defend hadith fabrications against monotheists (such as, condemning those who find the Quran alone sufficient); and even
* to advertise products of a particular farm (such as, the benefits of dates grown in a town called Ajwa).
In addition to the above mentioned reasons, many hadith were fabricated to explain the meaning of the "difficult" Quranic words or phrases, or to distort the meaning of verses that contradicted the fabricated hadith, or to provide trivial information not mentioned in the Quran (such as, Saqar, 2:187; 8:35.).
In terms of discrimination against women:
Verse 49:13 unequivocally rejects sexism and racism, and reminds us that neither man nor female, neither this race nor that race is superior over the other. The only measure of superiority is righteousness; being a humble, moral and socially conscientious person who strives to help others.
49:13 - O people, We created you from a male and female, and We made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Surely, the most honorable among you in the sight of God is the most righteous. God is Knowledgeable, Ever-aware.
As I have demonstrated in the Quran: a Reformist Translation and Manifesto for Islamic Reform, the message of the Quran is a liberating and progressive one. I would appreciate if you share the following table from Manifesto regarding some topics involving misogynistic ideas and practices in today's so-called Muslim societies:
Teachings Based on the Man-Made Sources, Such As, Hadith, Sunna, Ijma, and Sharia
The Quranic Verses Contradicting these Teachings, and
When Muhammad was 53 years-old, he married Aisha who was only 9 years-old.
This is another lie by the enemies of God and His messenger. They tried to create a moon-splitting, tree-moving, child-crippling superman with the sexual power of 30 males (Verse 24:11-12 with its non-specific language, prophetically addresses this lie too). Muhammad was an honorable person and would not have a sexual relationship with a child (68:4; see 4:5-6). Discrepancies in the historical account show a deliberate attempt to reduce Aisha's age. This lie is perhaps produced to justify the sexual excesses of kings and the wealthy. They tried to justify their violence, oppression, injustice, sexual transgressions, and many other crimes through the fabrication and promotion of hadith.
The menstruating women should not touch the Quran, should not pray and should not enter the mosques.
This is based on a misunderstanding of at least two verses. Verse 56:79 is not an inscriptive but a descriptive verse about understanding of the Quran. The only verse mentioning menstruation forbids sexual intercourse during menstruation since it is considered a painful period (2:222), and does not forbid women from praying or reading the Quran.
The Quran prohibits sexual relationship with a menstruating woman, not because she is dirty, but because menstruation is painful. The purpose is to protect women's health from being burdened by the sexual desires of their husbands. However, the male authors of the Old Testament, exaggerated and generalized this divine prohibition so much so that they turned menstruation to a reason for their humiliation, isolation, and punishment. (Leviticus 15:19-33)
Despite the Quranic rule, the followers of hadith and sunna adopted Jewish laws that consider a woman unclean, and treat her like dirt for fourteen straight days of every month. According to the fabricated rules of the Old Testament, a menstruating woman is considered unclean for seven days, and during that period wherever she sits will be considered unclean; whoever touches her or sits where she sits must wash and bathe. After she finishes the menstruation, she has to wait for seven more days to be considered clean for ceremonial purposes. (Leviticus 15:19-33)
Women should not lead congregational prayers, and it is not recommended for them to participate either.
The verse instructing those who acknowledge the truth to gather for congregational prayer does not exclude women (62:9). The Quranic expression, "O you who acknowledge." includes both men and women. Thank God, we have ended this misogynistic rule since 1999 and women have been leading congregational prayers and giving speeches ever since The end of the world did not come, nor did anything bad happen. To the contrary, we are now blessed with being members of a balanced congregation.
Women are mentally and spiritually inferior to men.
If a donkey, a dog, or a woman passes in front of the praying person the prayer is nullified.
Hell will be filled with mostly women; women are deficient in intelligence and religion.
These are male chauvinist statements that reflect a diabolic arrogance, and lack appreciation of half of the human population, who are the mothers, sisters, friends, and wives. (9:71; 33:35)
This is another misogynistic statement falsely attributed to Muhammad by so-called "authentic" hadith books. If we measure the level of intelligence by people's response to those who questioned their dogmas and superstitious beliefs, men have not scored better than women. Most of those who committed violence against the messengers and prophets were the male leaders, and most of those who distorted their message after their departure, again were all male religious leaders.
With a few exceptions based on biological differences or special conditions, men and women are considered equal in every aspect. The Quran expressly states the equality of man and woman, by the expression "you are from each other" ( 4:25). Furthermore, it reminds us of the common origin of both sexes and the purpose of why God created us as male and female, is the purpose being love and care (30:21) . Hadith sources do not reflect a loving and caring relationship between man and woman, but an arrogant, chauvinistic and patronizing attitude towards women. Unfortunately, when consultation and election was replaced by monarchy and satanic khilafa (theocratic rule), the rights women enjoyed with the revelation of the Quran were taken one by one, and within two centuries after Muhammad, Muslims reverted to the misogynistic attitudes and practices of the pre-Islamic days of ignorance.
The rights of women during the time of prophet Muhammad is reflected with all its power in verse 58:1, where a Muslim woman argues with Muhammad regarding her husband. God does not reprimand that woman; to the contrary, God sides with the grievances of the woman and criticizes the superstition. A critical study of hadith and history books will reveal that even those books contain many hints regarding the individual, social and political rights enjoyed by women during the era of revelation and even decades afterwards. History books report that Aisha, Muhammad's wife, in her old age became the leader and commander of a major faction that participated in a civil war that took place thirty years after the departure of Muhammad.
Verse 60:12 informs us of the rights and privileges enjoyed by women in the early Muslim community during the life of Prophet Muhammad. In that verse, the prophet acknowledges women's right to vote, by taking the pledge of believing women to peacefully surrender themselves to God alone and lead a righteous life. The word " BaYA'" used in the verse implies the political nature of the pledge; they accepted the leadership of the prophet individually, with their free choice. This verse is not about some pagan or mushrik women embracing Islam, but rather about a group of Muslim women publicly announcing their allegiance to Muhammad who became a founder of a federally secular constitutional government in central Arabia. This is a historical document that Muslim women were not considered default appendices of their decision-making husbands, brothers, fathers or male guardians, but Muslim women were treated as independent political entities who could vote and enter into social contract with their leaders. Unfortunately, many of the human rights recognized by Islam were later one by one taken away from individuals, especially from women, by the leaders of Sunni and Shiite religions; they replaced the progressive teaching of the Quran and practices of the early Muslims with hearsay fabrications thereby resurrecting the dogmas and practices of the days of ignorance. It took humanity centuries to grant women their God-given rights. For instance, the US recognized the right of women to vote in 1919 by passing the 19th Amendment, exactly, 13 centuries after it was recognized by the Quran. As for the region that once led the world in human rights and freedom, it is more than 13 centuries behind! After women, the men too lost their dignity to elect their leaders. What a regression!
According to the Quran, Mary was a sign for the world just as Jesus was (21:91). The Quran reports that Abraham's wife together with her husband welcomed male guests, participated in conversation, and laughed loud in their presence. She was not reprimanded for participating. To the contrary, at that meeting, God blesses her with the good news of pregnancy with Ishaq (11:71).
Verse 49:13 unequivocally rejects sexism and racism, and it reminds us that neither male nor female, neither this race nor that race is superior over the other. The only measure of superiority is righteousness; being a humble, moral and socially conscientious person who strives to help others.
The Quran is filled with verses referring to men and women in a neutral language that treats them equally (3:195; 4:7,25,32,124; 9:68-72; 16:97; 24:6-9; 33:35-36; 40:40; 49:13; 51:49; 53:45; 57.18; 66:10; 75:37-39; 92:3).
The Old Testament and St. Paul's Letters in the New Testament contain many misogynistic instructions. I recommend comparing Torrey's index for entries on 'Man' and 'Woman.' The comparison will show how the Old Testament and St. Paul are biased against women. St. Paul 's misogynistic teaching is a reflection and extension of a historical trend. The Old Testament contains many man-made misogynist teachings. For instance, a woman is considered unclean for one week if she gives birth to a son, but unclean for two weeks if she gives birth to a daughter (Leviticus 12:1-5).
Here are some of the misogynistic Biblical verses that changed so-called Muslims' attitudes towards women centuries after the Quran:
Women should be covered from head to toe under a veil. Women should be confined in their homes. Women should be segregated in public places.
Societies, on certain occasions, times, or places might choose to segregate the sexes, but none can sanctify those decisions in the name of God.
After a brief period of freedom and progress women enjoyed during the revelation of the Quran and several decades afterwards, they lost many of their human rights because of the fabricated misogynistic teachings introduced under the title of hadith, sunna, and sharia of various sects (3:195; 4:19,32; 9:71; 2:228).
The word "KHuMuR" in 24:31 is a plural noun that comes from the root word of "KHaMaRa" which means, "to cover." It is used for any cover, not exclusively for headscarves. An extensive Arabic dictionary, Lisan-ul Arab, informs us that the word was even used for rugs and carpets, since they cover the floor. The singular form of the same word "KHaMR," has been used for intoxicants, which "cover" the mind (5:90). In verse 24:31, God advises female Muslims to maintain their chastity and put their covers on their chests, not their heads! Additionally, the word " fel yedribne = they shall put, they shall cover" is significant in that verse. If KHuMuR meant head cover, the verb, "fel yudnine = they shall lengthen," (like in 33:59) would be more appropriate.
Another distortion involves the word "ZiYNa" of verse 24:31. Muslim clergymen have abused this word to cover women from head to toe. They considered almost all parts of female body as ZiYNa. Reflecting on the rituals of ablution for the daily prayers, one can easily infer that women can publicly open their faces, hair, arms, and feet as an act of worship (5:6). Therefore, opening their faces and arms is indeed an act of worship; and they are not required to worship in secret or segregated places (17:110). If a man stares at a woman who is taking ablution and is sexually aroused it is not her fault, but it is either a symptom of his psychological problems or an indication of the deep-rooted problems in that society. By requiring women to cover any of these parts of their body, religious scholars have turned a religious ritual into a matter of sexual expression.
It is up to women to cover themselves for their own protection. It is not up to men or moral police to mandate or impose this divine instruction on women, since the instruction is personal and specific to women. Besides, the language of the instruction is deliberately designed to accommodate different cultures, norms, conditions, and individual comfort level. A divine recommendation to protect women from the harassment of unrighteous men should not be abused to justify the harassment and oppression of self-righteous misogynistic men.
Verse 33:52 informs us that Muhammad was attracted to the physical beauty of women. No reasonable man is attracted to the "beauty" of women walking in black sacks. Despite this verse informing us that Muslim women during the time of Muhammad were interacting with men, their faces open, those who tried to deprive women from social and political life and from their individual and group identity, went to the extreme and issued religious fatwas mandating a veil to cover their faces. The veil is a satanic innovation designed to turn women into the slaves of men who claim to be lords and masters.
Verse 60:12 mentions the practice of another role model, prophet Muhammad. Muhammad did not receive any divine warning regarding the danger of the devil during this face-to-face interaction! Furthermore, the Quran permits men and woman to eat together or to help each other (24:61; 3:195; 9:71).
The Quran, for important political reasons, advises to the wives of the Prophet not to mingle with people as they used to (33:32-33). The advice is due to protecting Muhammad and his spouses from the defamation campaign started by the unappreciative crowd ( 8:30-31; 24:11-20).
Ironically, the followers of hadith ignore their own history regarding the condition of women during the time of Muhammad and the four "guide leaders": Aisha, Muhammad's wife, is reported to lead a faction of Muhammad's companions after his departure. How could have Aisha lead men and women, in peace and war, if she did not interact and communicate with them, if she did not have her own identity, if she was imprisoned in her home or in her black veil?
The Quran provides several examples of women being active role models in their societies and interacting with men, such as Abraham's wife (11:69-71; 60:4-6), Muslim women in Madyan with one whom Moses married (28:23-28), the Queen of Sheba who later surrenders to the will of God (27:34:40), and Mary (19:16-30; 3:42-43; 66:11-12). Muslim women were so outspoken that they could engage in debate with Muhammad (58:1), and women pledged allegiance and voted for Muhammad's leadership (60:12).
Therefore, segregating men and women has no Islamic basis; it is a un-Quranic practice imported from misogynistic teachings of St. Paul and the Old Testament.
Segregation in places of worship existed as an innovation among Jews (Exodus 38:8; 1 Samuel 2:22 ) and reached its zenith with additional condemnation and degradation with St. Paul who condemned women for Adam's sin and silenced them in the public arena.
"Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says." (I Corinthians 14: 34)
"For a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man." (I Corinthians 11:6-9)
"Let a women learn in silence with all submission. And do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Nevertheless, she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love and holiness, with self-control." (I Timothy 2:11-15)
The followers of hadith and sunna adopted the misogynistic teachings of St. Paul , and still many of them clung onto them as their religion, while most of Christendom has meanwhile mutated many times and quietly ignored and abandoned those teachings. In the Christian world, St. Paul's teachings have been partially rejected; women no longer cover their heads, and they no longer stay silent in churches. It is ironic that today's Sunnis and Shiites follow more seriously many of the teachings of Judaism and Christianity than the Jews and Christians themselves.
A woman cannot divorce her husband on her own.
Verse 2:228 establishes equal rights to both genders. By associating and even preferring numerous collections of lies and innovations to the Quran, the followers of hadith and sunna denied Muslim women the right to divorce and turned them into slaves of male despotism.
A man can divorce his wife by uttering some words three times.
Sectarian scholars who ignored the Quran and upheld volumes of books of hadith and sunna, issued laws (sharia) allowing the marriage contract to be terminated with several words coming from the husband's mouth. Divorce is an event lasting several months; it is not just an oral declaration of the male spouse. A wife cannot be divorced by announcing, "I divorce you three times." This ease and one-sided divorce created miserable marriages and destroyed many families. Many men, who "divorced" their wives by uttering the magical word " talaq" (divorce) unintentionally or in the heat of anger, desperately looked for a solution (fatwa), and found mullahs and religious judges selling fatwas to save their marriage! The class that created the problem in the first place became the benefactor of the solution (2:226-230; 9:34-35; 33:49).
The New Testament takes the opposite direction; divorce is considered a great offense and after the marriage, none should divorce, except for reasons of adultery. Marriage after divorce is committing adultery (Matthew 5:32; 19:9).
Polygamy up to four women is permitted. One can marry four previously unmarried women. Men do not need the consent of his wife(s) for polygamy.
The Quran does not limit the number of women. Though the Quran allows polygamy (4:3), it discourages its practice by requiring certain conditions: a man can marry more than one, only to the widows with children and should try to treat them equally ( 4:19-20, 127-129). Besides the consent of the former wife(s) is essential since they have the right to object or divorce their husbands. Unfortunately, verse 4:127 has been traditionally mistranslated as to allow marriage with juvenile orphans rather than their mothers. The word " ibkar" in verse 66:5 too has been mistranslated. For discussion on verses, 4:127 and 66:5 please see the notes.
It is an injustice to blame the Quran for advising us to care about the orphaned children and their widowed mothers. These verses primarily advocate the economic interests, psychological and biological needs, and social status of orphans, especially during war. Unfortunately, the enemies of the last prophet who attributed volumes of fabrications to him (6:112-116), have distorted the meaning and purpose of these wonderful divine precepts.
Muhammad's marriages to widows had political and social reasons. Unfortunately, the permission for polygamy was distorted and it became a means to satisfy the libido of the rich and dominant males. The all-male scholars, to achieve their goal used hadith and distorted the meaning of verses, such as 4:3-6, 4:127 and 66:5.
Here, we should note that exaggerated examples of polygamy, explicit details of sexual affairs, and stories of incest have been inserted into the Bible. We find much similarity between stories in hadith books and those Biblical stories. For instance, 1 King 11:3 claims that Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Anyone familiar with the current versions of the Bible would know that it contains numerous textual problems, translational errors, and contradictions. Numbers in the Bible are easily subjected to distortion, exaggeration, or simple scribing errors. For instance, we see a big difference in the number of charioteers killed by David. It is 700 according to II Samuel 10:18 and it is 7000 according to I Chronicles 19:18. Note that both numbers are whole numbers and the discrepancy is ten times.
A little attention to the numbers of wives and concubines attributed to Solomon would reveal a deliberate attempt to make it as round as possible. 700+300=1000. Total of seven zeroes! Most likely Solomon had a few wives. Contrary to the Quran that exhorts muslims to help widows, the misogynistic Rabbinical teachings inserted to the Old Testament put them in the category of harlots, and finds them unworthy of marriage by the privileged class, priests (Leviticus 21:14).
In terms of male and female circumcision:
Modifying God's creation for religious purposes is considered evil (See 4:119). Obviously, foreskin is not an abnormality in God's creation; it is the norm. Attempting to change such a creation through surgery to attain salvation is superstition (13:8; 25:2; 32:7; 40:64; 64:3; 82:6-9).
Sunni sources report many contradictory stories regarding circumcision. For instance, Ahmed B. Hanbal in his Musnad reports that Usman bin el-As refused to participate in a circumcision ceremony, since he considered circumcision an innovation. The Sunni historian Taberi reports that Caliph Abd al-Aziz rejected the suggestion of his advisors that the people of Khurasan should be circumcised; they were converted to "Islam" to avoid paying extra tax! Bukhari gives contradictory numbers for the year Abraham was allegedly circumcised, 80 versus 120. Bukhari who reports hearsay regarding the circumcision of converts and women, also reports that when Greeks and Abyssinians embraced islam they were not examined at all by Muhammad.
Hadith books, including Bukhari, contain numerous hadiths promoting circumcision including female circumcision, which is a torturous mutilation. However, hadith fabricators somehow forgot to fabricate hadiths about the circumcision of prominent figures during the time of Muhammad. More interestingly, since the practice of circumcision was adopted centuries later, they missed the opportunity to attribute this practice to Muhammad himself. Sunni scholars, therefore, came up with another so-called miracle: Muhammad was born circumcised. This would answer those who wondered about the absence of such an "important" record in the books of hadith and sunna.
The Quran never mentions Abraham practicing circumcision. If indeed Abraham did such a surgery on himself, perhaps he wanted to eliminate some kind of infection, and the blind followers who later idolized him turned his personal deed into a religious ritual. Looking at the history of the Jewish people and their trials and tribulations, it is more likely that this is an invention of Rabbis to mark the endangered race and protect it from extinction. Introducing innovations in religious communities may need some "holy stories" to attribute the innovation to historical idols.
The Quran never mentions the adventures of the Biblical character Samson who had a bizarre hobby of collecting the foreskins of the thousands of people he killed by the jaw of an ass (Old Testament Judges 15:16).
The Old Testament contains hyperbolic exaggerations and bizarre practices. For instance, ignoring the discrepancy in the number of mutilated penises read the following verses from Bible:
"So David rose and he and his men went and struck down among the Philistines two hundred men, and David came bringing their foreskins and giving them in full number to the king, to form a marriage alliance with the king. In turn Saul gave him Michal, his daughter, as a wife." (1 Samuel 18:27).
"Then David sent messengers to Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, demanding, 'Give me my wife Michal, whom I engaged to myself for a hundred foreskins of the Philistines" (2 Samuel 3:14).
Using a bundle of foreskins of mutilated genitals of the dead bodies of enemy as the symbolic show of manhood, and literally using them in exchange for a woman is appalling and insulting to women.
Men and women, in general, have some differences because of their different biology, and have some different needs and roles. However, some sex roles and inequalities are created by society and exploited by men. In order to let nature and justice prevail over superficiality and injustice, it is imperative to have the following: 1) Equal respect and appreciation of roles regardless of their gender, 2) Equal chance for both males and females to choose their roles freely and responsibly, And 3) Laws to promote and guarantee these two goals.
FP: Thank you Mr. Yuksel. Robert Spencer, go ahead.
Spencer: All sincere and genuine attempts to reform Islamic theology so as to reinterpret and/or remove violent and supremacist elements are to be welcomed. They are to be welcomed all the more wholeheartedly when they keep a consistent focus on the purpose that all such efforts have or should have in the first place: to convince Muslims that jihad violence and Islamic supremacism are not "pure" and "true" Islam, as the jihadists themselves claim, but that there is another way to live out their faith that is consistent and authentic on its own terms.
Edip Yuksel, when he says that "none of these innovations can be found in the Quran, the only book delivered by Muhammad" and that the Hadith are "hearsay narrations falsely attributed to Muhammad and his companions" that "contradict" the Qur'an, argues for the proposition that the Qur'an alone holds authority for Muslims, and that the Hadith is to be dismissed out of hand. This view is being espoused by an increasing number of reform-minded Muslim thinkers in the West, and there are certainly many immediate apparent merits to this view - stoning for adultery, the death penalty for apostasy and the compulsory covering of all but a woman's face and hands all come from the Hadith, not the Qur'an. A Qur'an-only Islam gives the hope that such practices, and others that have no Qur'anic foundation (although stoning is a bit of a problematic case, since in one Hadith Umar informs us that it was originally in the Qur'an, and should be considered to be from Allah, and some Muslim exegetes see the death penalty for apostasy in Qur'an 2:217 and/or 4:89) could easily be jettisoned.
As comforting as this may be to non-Muslims and Western-minded Muslims, the fundamental question for this and for all genuine reform efforts is: what chance do they have to become widely accepted among Muslims? One way to evaluate this is to examine the obstacles it will face in gaining such acceptance. The chief obstacle that Yuksel's blanket dismissal of the Hadith will encounter among Muslims is the fact that acceptance of ahadith that have been deemed authentic by traditional Islamic authorities is very deeply rooted within Islamic tradition. All Muslims agree that some ahadith were fabricated, but few would agree with Yuksel that all of them are. While he may be able to make a case for this on strict historical grounds, since in reality the historical foundations even for the ahadith that Muslims deem authentic are quite shaky, he will have a harder time compelling Muslims to accept such historical judgments even against ahadith that have been deemed authentic by authoritative Islamic scholars such as the Imams Bukhari and Muslim.
In fact, the acceptance of the Hadith is itself grounded in the Qur'an, in its exhortations to Muslims to "obey Allah and his Messenger" - that is, Muhammad (3:32; 3:132; 4:13; 4:59; 4:69; 5:92; 8:1; 8:20; 8:46; 9:71; 24:52; 24:54; 33:33; 47:33; 49:14; 58:13; 64:12; cf. also 24:47; 24:51; 24:56). Qur'an 4:80 even says, "He who obeys the Messenger, obeys Allah." It is Muhammad who "commands them what is just and forbids them what is evil; he allows them as lawful what is good (and pure) and prohibits them from what is bad (and impure)" (Qur'an 7:157).
How can Muslims obey such emphatic and oft-repeated commands after the death of Muhammad? The traditional answer to this question has been the Hadith. Muslims are told to follow what Muhammad commands, and only in the hadith can those commands be discovered. The Tafsir Anwar ul-Bayan, for example, articulates this traditional view in sharp terms: "Those who reject the Ahadith do not accept the position that Allah accorded to the Holy Prophet.Those who reject the Ahadith seem to object to Allah for conferring this position to the Holy Prophet.In this way, they actually reject the Qur'an since verses like the one above [7:157] clearly reveal that the duty of the Holy Prophet was much more than that of a mere postman." In other words, Muhammad is more than just Allah's messenger: he is, according to Qur'an 33:21, uswa hasana, an excellent example of conduct, the supreme model for emulation. Muqtedar Khan of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy explains:
No religious leader has as much influence on his followers as does Muhammad (Peace be upon him) the last Prophet of Islam..And Muhammad as the final messenger of God enjoys preeminence when it comes to revelation - the Qur'an - and traditions. So much so that the words, deeds and silences (that which he saw and did not forbid) of Muhammad became an independent source of Islamic law. Muslims, as a part of religious observance, not only obey, but also seek to emulate and imitate their Prophet in every aspect of life. Thus Muhammad is the medium as well as a source of the divine law. ("The Legacy of Prophet Muhammad and the Issues of Pedophilia and Polygamy," Ijtihad, June 9, 2003.)
This is a traditional and mainstream Islamic understanding. I wish Mr. Yuksel well in its efforts against it, but caution non-Muslim observers against assuming that he will achieve easy or widespread acceptance for his views among Muslims.
Unfortunately, there are also some problems with his analysis on strict Qur'anic grounds alone - problems that will also hinder the acceptance of his reform efforts among Muslims. Mr. Yuksel asserts, for instance, that Qur'an 49:13 "unequivocally rejects sexism and racism, and reminds us that neither man nor female, neither this race nor that race is superior over the other." Qur'an 49:13 says, "O people, We created you from a male and female, and We made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another." While it would be comforting indeed to see this as a blanket rejection of the male supremacism and commodification of women that mars so much of Islamic tradition and culture, on its face it is nothing of the sort. It merely states that Allah has created people from a male and a female, and says nothing that contradicts Qur'an 4:34 -- which, interestingly enough, in his lengthy exposition Mr. Yuksel does not quote at all. Yet besides its notorious command to beat disobedient women, this verse says: "Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other." That doesn't sound like an unequivocal rejection of sexism to me. Nor does the condition of women in the Islamic world in general, expecially where Islamic law is rigorously applied, testify to a widespread understanding that Qur'an 49:13 has established equality between the sexes. Here again, I wish Mr. Yuksel well with his reform efforts, but I suspect that all too many traditional Muslims will quote 4:34 against his views. I look forward to his explanation of how he might respond to them.
Similarly, in his refutation of the proposition that "women are mentally and spiritually inferior to men," Mr. Yuksel never mentions Qur'an 2:282, which stipulates that for testimony," if there are not two men, then a man and two women, such as ye choose, for witnesses, so that if one of them errs, the other can remind her." It was on the basis of this verse that, according to a hadith, Muhammad declared that women are "deficient in intelligence and religion." When a woman challenged him on this statement, he replied: "Is not the evidence of two women equal to the witness of one man? This is the deficiency in her intelligence." Mr. Yuksel may deny the hadith, but the Qur'an verse upon which it rests remains.
In conclusion, I find it unfortunate that Mr. Yuksel so often has recourse to the Bible in his attempts to show the Qur'an and Islam to stand for enlightenment and equality. For whatever the actual barbarity of any of the Biblical verses he quotes may be, the unpleasant fact remains that it is not Jews and Christians, but Muslims, who today are applying teachings that render normative "bizarre practices." Judaism and Christianity have developed interpretative traditions that mitigate the literal understanding of such material, while Islam has not - and no religious reform has ever succeeded when the reformers simply ignored uncomfortable material, as Mr. Yuksel has here so far, rather than confronting it.
Haidon: The Center's video is a sickening reminder of the nature and foundations of what we are facing. The Muslim account of Muhammad (via the Hadith and Sirah) is replete with references to Muhammad's alleged appetite for tyranny, oppression and violence of the worst kind. Both Mr. Spencer and Mr. Warner's work painstakingly sets out this account in clear terms. I am deeply troubled by much of the Muslim historical account of Muhammad as enshrined in the Hadith and Sirah. While in many instances these sources portray the Prophet as a moral and upright, other instances portray a sinister picture of violence against women, and non-Muslims, and in some cases sexual violence.
Similar to Mr.Yuksel, I advocate a Qur'anist approach to Islam which seeks to marginalise/de-emphasise the so called Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad towards greater deference to the Qur'an which, in Islam, is divine revelation (whereas the latter sources are not). Although there are some differences in our approaches. I will allow Mr Yuksel to respond to Mr. Spencer's observations about the rationalist movement to de-emphasise the Sunnah. I will say however that there is a growing Qur'an based rationalist movement that is "walking the talk" so to speak by developing intellectual and theological responses to Islam's underlying problems which address and refute Mr. Spencer's concerns. Mr. Yuksel's translation, as well as the work of Ahmed Subhy Mansour, Caner Taslaman and the scholars at www.free-minds.org and www.quranists.org provides a framework for addressing the key issues.
In reality, however, we cannot ignore the entire written account of Muhammad, whether it be enshrined in the Quran, Hadith or Sirah. I would like nothing more than to be able to inform my co-panelists that I have every confidence that Muhammad did not commit any of the atrocities attributed to him. However I think from a practical perspective it is a difficult case indeed to sweepingly disregard the historical account of Muhammad or to categorically say that it is false. It also poses strategic problems. Nonetheless, whether or not the Muslim account of Muhammad is fictional or fact, the reality is that Muslims rely on that history regardless.
FP: Mr. Haidon, if you don't mind me following up with you for a moment in terms of your own faith. If it is a difficult case to sweepingly disregard the historical account of Muhammad or to categorically say that it is false, as you say, how and why do you remain a Muslim? I don't mean this in an aggressive or accusatory way, but more in a hope to open up the discussion and to crystallize, perhaps, what it means to be a Muslim for many Muslims who are ready to be honest about the truth regarding their own Prophet.
Haidon: "The Messenger said "My Lord, my people have deserted this Qur'an" (Qur'an, 25:30)
Shall I seek other than Allah as a source of law, when He has revealed this book fully detailed? ....The word of your Lord is complete , in truth and justice. Nothing shall abrogate His words; He is the hearer, the omniscient. Yet, if you obey the majority of people, they will take you away from the path of The God. That is because they follow conjecture, and they fail to think." (Qur'an, 6:114-116)
And We have sent down the Book to you as a clarity for everything, and a guidance and mercy and good news for those who Submit." (Qur'an 16:89)
Allah has revealed herein the best Hadith [the Qur'an]; a book that is consistent, and points out both ways. The skins of those who reverence their Lord cringe there from, then their skins and their hearts soften up for Allah's message. Such is Allah's guidance; He bestows it upon whoever wills. As for those sent astray by Allah , nothing can guide them." (Qur'an39:23)
In summary, I am Muslim and will remain Muslim because I believe in the primacy of the Qur'an and its wisdom. I believe that the Qur'an is complete, and provides comprehensive guidance to Muslims when interpreted contextually. I believe in the principle in the Qur'an that all Prophets are equal, and that Muslims must not distinguish between them. I believe that to blindly follow the Sunnah and place it in close parity to the Qur'an is a form of shirk.
To be clear, I believe that many of the Hadith (and aspects of the Sirah) are fabrications developed in order to help the powers that be (Ummayids and Abbasids) legitimise their power to control Islamic jurisprudence. As a rationalist, I believe that the isnad hadith verification methodology is flawed, and that the real test of whether an ahadith should become a recognised source of Islamic jurisprudence is its overall consistency with the Qur'an. Any Ahadith must be interpreted and understand in light of the Qur'an, not the other way around. The Qur'an is the Criterion in Islam and has ultimate primacy.
To reject all ahadith as false is also impractical because there are a number of early hadith which support our position that the Prophet Muhammad was vehemently opposed to recording his traditions out of a credible fear that they would become, in the eyes of Muslims, equal to the Qur'an ("The prophet said:'Do not write anything from me EXCEPT QURAN. Whoever wrote, must destroy it" (Muslim, Zuhd 72; Hanbel3/12,21,39)) . There is also historical evidence to suggest that the early, so called "rightly guided" Caliphs were opposed to the codification of Hadith for the same reasons. The impact of Muslim adherence to Hadith and Sunnah, as imposed by Islamic rule, has been devastating and has lead to the veneration and de-ification of Muhammad. Ironically, the practice of traditional Islam has almost become a form of shirk. It also contravenes the principle of the equality of the prophets as enshrined in 2:285 and 4:152. However, while I cannot reject the authenticity of all Hadith, I reject their place of authority in the realm of Islamic jurisprudence, because a significant portion of the Hadith are prima facie inconsistent with the Qur'an.
Mr. Spencer has correctly framed the traditional Sunni justification/arguments arguments for the legitimacy of the "Sunnah" as a primary source of Islam. These verses, along with others, have been the primary basis of the Muslim reliance on Sunnah. However, to a rationalist, this view is fatally flawed. I will defer to Mr. Yuksel to provide a more coherent explanation, as his marvelous Translation and accompanying Manifesto for Islamic reform does. Briefly, however the Qur'an is complete and is the culmination of Allah's commandments and injunctions. Mr. Spencer writes: "Muslims are told to follow what Muhammad commands, and only in the hadith can those commands be discovered". This is where we differ: Muhammad's commands and injunctions are derived from the Qur'an. Therefore his commands and injunctions must be consistent with the Qur'an. This is the essential principle which undermines the traditional Sunni view. Again, I will leave it to Mr. Yuksel to provide a more cogent articulation.
I understand where Mr. Spencer is coming from and have every respect for him. However, I am slightly surprised by Mr. Spencer's tone towards Mr. Yuksel. Mr. Spencer has, for many years exhorted Muslims to provide a practical and sustainable framework for reform. Well, its here. I would hope that Mr. Spencer would, instead of merely citing/parroting the traditional Sunni critique of the Qur'anist/rationalist movement, view it for what it is; a comprehensive, rational and practical framework for reforming Islam. That does not mean he should not challenge it of course, but I would hope that he will closely evaluate all sides of the argument.
Mr. Yuksel, nor anyone in the Qur'anist movement said that convincing Muslims will be easy. This is not because any lack of soundness in the Qur'anist approach, but again because the approach challenges Islamist power and places the powers and freedoms into the hands of individuals. Mr.Yuksel or Qur'anists cannot be faulted for not yet being able to convince the massive swarms of Muslims who believe in traditional approaches. Efforts are being made however, that go beyond rhetoric and double-speak. Mr. Yuksel's work and the work of others in the Qur'anist movement illustrate this. The rationalist movement however, as Mr. Spencer points out, represents a minority of Muslims. Much more work will need to be done to challenge the status quo. Non-Muslims, who are legitimate stake-holders to Islamic reform, should not be diluted that full scale reform will happen any time soon. However progress is being made.
Warner: I do not find the reform ideas here to be either comprehensive or rational.
All of my comments are from the standpoint of the unbeliever, the kafir. I have no interest, whatsoever, in religious Islam. My interest is only in how Islam treats the "other" or political Islam.
The amount of the material in the Trilogy (Koran, Sira and Hadith) about the kafir is considerable. About 67% of the Koran written in Mecca is about the kafir, 51% of the Koran written in Medina is about the kafir. About 75% of the text in Ishaq's Sira is about the kafir and 20% of the Hadith (Bukhari) is about the kafir.
Every mention about the kafir is negative. "Kafir" is usually translated as unbeliever, but this is wrong. The word "unbeliever" is neutral. The Koran defines the kafir by its usage and says that the kafir can be killed, hated, punished, raped, mocked, enslaved, plotted against, beheaded, tortured, insulted, condemned, stolen from, deceived, kidnapped, humiliated and on and on. The Hadith and Sira follow in the same vein. There is no word in the English language that has the negativity of the word kafir.
As a measure of the negativity it is interesting to observe the Jew hatred. The hatred of Jews accounts for 10.6% of the text written in Medina . As a comparison, 6.8% of the text in Mein Kamph is about Jew hatred.
Even Hell is political. Only 6% of the people in Hell are there for moral failings-theft, lying and so on. The majority, 94%, of the people in Hell are tortured for the simple reason of not believing Mohammed. That is a political and intellectual disagreement, not a moral failing. Allah's Hell is a political prison for kafirs.
So when the gentlemen in this symposium say they reject the violence and hatred against the kafir found in the Sira and Hadith, I applaud them. However, they are wrong about the reason to reject it. They argue that Mohammed was a wonderful man and did not do those horrible things in the Sira and Hadith. We have a way to measure the truthfulness of the Sira and Hadith regarding Mohammed.
Mohammed left four very close friends and students, the "rightly guided" caliphs. No men were as intimate with Mohammed and his teachings as these men. They carried his teaching forward into history where their actions are recorded. Abu Bakr killed thousands of Muslims who wanted to leave Islam, apostates. Umar brought jihad to the kafir world and killed, raped, stole and tortured the Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians of the Middle East . Uthman was assassinated and Ali died in an Islamic civil war. Any coach will tell you-you play like you train. The rightly guided caliphs practiced what they were taught by the master-jihad and kafir hatred.
These men lived their lives just as Mohammed taught them. The teachings are portrayed in the Sira and Hadith. They did what we would expect. Now, if Mohammed was a wonderful man, why did his best students annihilate the kafir civilization? We do not have to speculate about the "real" Mohammed, he is found in the Sira and Hadith. History proves this.
The second reason to accept the Sira and Hadith as a good portrayal of Mohammed (I am not referring to the excessive detail in them, an obvious story-telling technique) is the integrity of the Trilogy. The Koran, Sira and Hadith are a seamless fabric of ideas. The Koran is the warp and the